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The High Price of Nuclear Energy, the World's Most Dangerous Fuel

by Martin Cohen & Andrew McKillop

Pub Date: March 27th, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-230-33834-0
Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan

Emerging from its 20-year, post-Chernobyl recession, the nuclear-power industry is building new plants around the world—a terrible idea according to this angry, intensively researched, unsympathetic analysis.

For more than 60 years, enthusiasts have asserted that nuclear electricity will be cheap, clean and safe, and they’ve always been wrong. Social scientist Cohen (Mind Games: 31 Ways to Rediscover Your Brain, 2010) and British energy economist McKillop add that current advances show no signs of proving them right. The authors deliver a convincing account of the partnership between industry and government (essential because nuclear plants require massive subsidies) to build wildly expensive generators whose electricity remains uncompetitive without more subsidies. Technical advances have made nuclear plants even more expensive and marginally safer, but not actually safe. Accidents continue to occur. Disposing of nuclear waste remains an insoluble problem with no solution in sight, so massive collections of poisonous radioactive debris are piling up around us. Most unsettling, poor nations with unimpressive government oversight (Nigeria, Indonesia, Bangladesh) are jumping on the nuclear bandwagon. Sadly, global warming has split the environmental movement with one faction supporting nuclear power as the only practical way to reduce carbon emissions. Solar and wind power remain hopelessly inefficient; hydroelectric dams often flood valuable land; biofuels convert food to gasoline; fusion power is pie-in-the-sky. The authors show understandable contempt for nuclear proponents who proclaim their green credentials but proceed to alienate their target audience by claiming that global-warming arguments are vastly overblown.

A persuasive if discouraging argument that nuclear power offers different but no less nasty environmental problems than burning hydrocarbons.